Malankara World

What Shall I Do To Be Saved?

By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil

Question Appendix A

Who are these "Brothers"? (Did Jesus have any brothers?)

The Greek word for "brothers" is "adelphos", and is a compound word. Adelphos A + delph . "A" means 'same' and "delph" means 'womb'. So some Protestants argue that these "brothers" of Jesus must be from the same womb as Himself and thus are children of Mary, His mother.

However, this is an etymological fallacy. The derivation of a word, its etymology, will give you the history of a word, but does not necessarily give you the correct definition of that word. For example, Plato (429 -347 BC) in his LAWS XI 924 E for his model state: "That brother [ADELPHOS] who is born of the same father or of the same mother " Therefore, the word "adelphos" cannot necessarily mean from the same womb. Plato also uses the same word to mean "kindred or relatives."

In which manner is this word used in reference to Jesus Christ? Was it used in terms of its etymological meaning or was it used to mean as defined by Plato? Let us consider other versus where the word "adelphos" is used, and try to understand in what context this word is used.

The phrase "His mother's sister," in John 19.25 [verse quoted below], is a reference to mother of the sons of Zebedee a.k.a Salome, (Mat. 20:20), Luke 5:10. This is evident when we compare Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 [see quotes below]. These passages show a consistency whereby each of these three Gospels lists all three women at the cross, besides the Blessed Virgin Mary.

However, we know that Mary and Salome were cousins (see family tree below). So this is an example of "ADELPHOS" (the feminine version of the word in this case), being used with a wider definition than just children from the same womb.

Family Tree of Jesus and Mary
Family Tree of St. Mary and Jesus



Blue color or number (1) is used to refer to Mary, the mother of our Lord.
Pink or the number (2) is used to refer to Mary Magdalene.
Red or the number (3) is used to refer to Mary the mother of James.
Green or the number (4) is used to refer to Salome - the mother of sons of Zebedee.

Is not this, the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary (1)? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary (1) and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, (Mark 6:3)

among whom were Mary Magdalene (2) , and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (3), and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (4). (Matthew 27:56)

There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene (2), and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses (3), and Salome (4) (Mark 15:40)

So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother (1), and his mother's sister (4), Mary the wife of Clopas (3), and Mary Magdalene (2). (John 19:25)

In the book, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God by Bishop Ullathorne (page 82), it states that St. Hippolytus, the martyr, in Apud Niceph. L. ii. C. 3, records that Salome, Zebedee's wife, was the mother of James and John. He also records that Salome and the Blessed Virgin Mary were cousins. The fact that they are called "sisters" in the Bible shows that the word "sister" had a less restricted meaning and included close relatives (The Greek word used in the Bible is the feminine version of ADELPHOS).

King Herod and his brother Philip are called ADELPHOS in Mark 6.17. Yet we know that they are not from the same womb [as the derivation of that word might suggest]. Their father King Herod the Great, had four wives and they were born of different mothers. (see the family tree below.)

Family Tree of Herod

This brings us to a conclusion regarding our discussion about the true meaning of the word 'adelphos'. We can see that it is used to represent relatives. Therefore, the reference to the 'brothers and sisters' of Jesus does not mean that Mary had other children.

TOC Section 1 (Q 1-26) | Sec 2 (Q 27-56) | Sec 3 (Q 57-81) | Sec 4 (Q 82-115) | Sec 5 (Q 116-135) | Prev: References

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